A tweet by Google’s Gary Illyes implied that Google doesn’t catch all paid links. The tweet was thanking someone for submitting a list of 700 domains that sold links. That implied that the links passed PageRank and Google didn’t know about them.

Google’s Gary Illyes Tweet About Paid Links

Google’s Webmaster Trend Analyst Gary Illyes tweet thanked someone for revealing 700 link selling domains. But it also revealed that the paid links on those domains had been passing PageRank.

This is what Gary Illyes tweeted:

“Hey Jon! I don’t know if this will reach you, but your email address bounces. Just wanted to say thank you very much for sending over that spreadsheet with over 700 link seller domains! We made sure their links are worthless!”

The part where Gary says, “We made sure their links are worthless!” appears to imply that the paid links had value before to receiving the spreadsheet with the list of 700 domains that sold links. The implication is that Google made the paid links worthless after receiving the spreadsheet.

Gary did not say those links previously had value. It is implied.

Illyes also did not say that those links were helping sites rank. He only said that they “made sure” that the links were now worthless.  That’s a little ambiguous but it does imply the links still passed some worth.

It could be that Google had already caught those links and devalued them and that Google made all outbound links no longer count, including the paid links they had already count.

But… Gary’s tweet implies the links may have been passing link signals because his tweed said Google had made sure their links were now “worthless.” That means they previously had worth and now had no worth.

What motivated this mysterious “Jon” who submitted 700 link selling domains? Was he a competitor of the site that was benefiting from paid links? Or was he another link seller sabotaging a competitor?

How Were the Paid Links Reported?

Google has a way for publishers to report paid links through the search console. Strangely, Gary’s tweet indicated that the email address on record bounced. One would assume that the email address associated with a Google Search Console account would be valid.

So it’s strange that Illyes tweeted that the email bounced.

Does Google Catch Paid Links?

I don’t pay for links. I’ve been doing SEO for almost two decades and have been active in the community for a similar period. I know many people and I hear things.

Publishers and SEOs have said that paid links embedded in content from big brand authoritative sites tend to work. But Google catches some of them after a couple months.

Links from less authoritative sites tend to have at best zero effect to at worst an almost immediate negative effect.

Gary Illyes’ tweet was somewhat surprising. It implied that Google doesn’t catch all paid links.  Google’s Gary Illyes many not have meant to communicate that Google doesn’t catch all paid links. Yet the subtext is there that the links were worthless after Google received and processed the spreadsheet.

Read the Twitter discussion here:
https://twitter.com/methode/status/1161505935388545024?s=20